Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Group for the Study of Late Antiquity

NEW SEMINAR at the Hebrew University: The Group for the Study of Late Antiquity.

Seow, Job 1-21

Job 1-21
Interpretation and Commentary

C. L. Seow

HARDCOVER; Coming Soon: 2/28/2013
ISBN: 978-0-8028-4895-6

The book of Job is by all accounts an exquisite piece of literary art that has its rightful place among the most outstanding compositions in world literature. It is a work of remarkable theological richness, passion, and honesty. Yet it is also widely recognized as an immensely difficult text to understand.

C. L. Seow's two-volume commentary -- the first in the Illuminations biblical commentary series -- pays close attention to the reception history of Job, including Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Western secular interpretations as expressed in theological, philosophical, and literary writings and in the visual and performing arts. In addition, this volume offers a primarily literary-theological interpretation of Job, a new translation, and commentary, resulting in a "history of consequences" that draws on insights from a rich tapestry of historical and contemporary interpretations.

JTS 63.1 (2012)

THE JOURNAL OF THEOLOGICAL STUDIES has a fairly recent new issue out: 63.1 (2012).

Follow the link for the full TOC, but note the following articles in particular:
Charlotte Hempel
Who is Making Dinner at Qumran?
J Theol Studies (2012) 63(1): 49-65

Jonathan Knight
The Origin and Significance of the Angelomorphic Christology in the Ascension of Isaiah
J Theol Studies (2012) 63(1): 66-105
Also, this review:
H. G. M. Williamson
Qumran Cave 1. II: The Isaiah Scrolls. Part 1: Plates and Transcriptions. Part 2: Introductions, Commentary, and Textual Variants. By Eugene Ulrich and Peter W. Flint, with a contribution by Martin G. Abegg, Jr.
J Theol Studies (2012) 63(1): 230-234
Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access the full articles and book reviews.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bnei Menashe update

MORE BNEI MENASHE—supposed remnants of the 10 lost tribes of Israel—are emigrating from India to Israel. Some detailed coverage in Tablet Magazine: ‘Lost’ Indian Jews Come Home. Shut out for years, this week Bnei Menashe Jews moved to Israel. Why did the government change its policy?

Background here and links.

Ancient shrine found

REMAINS OF AN IRON-AGE II SHRINE have been discovered near Jerusalem:
Animal Figurines Found in Ancient Israel Temple

by LiveScience Staff
Date: 27 December 2012 Time: 01:52 PM ET

Just outside of Jerusalem, archaeologists have discovered a cache of vessels and figurines inside a 2,750-year-old temple that could provide a rare window into religious rituals of the period, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.

The finds were uncovered at Tel Motza, an archaeological site being excavated ahead of the expansion of Highway 1, the main road connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The dig revealed part of a large building, believed to be a temple, and objects that date back to the era of the First Temple, which, according to the Hebrew Bible, was constructed by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. and then destroyed 400 years later.

The Deuteronomistic Historian would not have approved.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rollston update

CHRISTOPHER ROLLSTON has resigned from Emmanuel Christian Seminary.

Background here and links.

UPDATE (congratulations!): Visiting Professorship at George Washington University.

Gender Dualism in the Book of Baruch

SARAH VEALE has an interesting essay at Invocatio on gender dualism in Justin the Gnostic's Book of Baruch: Gnostic Dualism and Gender in Baruch.
But Baruch does not portray the female or the material world as a holy thing. In all cases, it is something to be subdued by masculine power and separated from higher, transcendent principles. When the female does have power, it is corrupt, evil, embodied and uncontrollable. It’s hard not to see the dualism and its implications on gender at work in this text.
This Book of Baruch is a lost Gnostic text known to us only in a summary by Hippolytus and, unlike 1-3 Baruch, the title character is not the prophet Jeremiah's scribe, but rather an angel of the same name who figures in Justin's retelling of the biblical narrative. You can read about Justin and his book in Hippolytus's Refutation of All Heresies, 5.18-23. The surviving fragments of this Book of Baruch are being translated by Todd Klutz for volume 2 of the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project.

Cross-file under "Pseudepigrapha Watch" and "Lost Books."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS: Four caught selling 1,900-year-old leather Torah.

I would be happy to be wrong on this, but I simply do not believe that these guys had a complete Torah scroll that was 1900 years old. That would be nearly as old as the Dead Sea Scrolls. It does sound like they did have an oldish Hebrew scroll of some sort which perhaps they shouldn't have had, and it's as well that this was noticed. I'm not sure if the photo is supposed to be of the scroll, but it's upside down and of poor resolution, the script is not of 100 CE, and it doesn't look a Torah scroll to me.

Ilan Ben Zion has more details in The Times of Israel: Turkish police bust men trying to sell ‘a 1,900-year-old Torah’: Suspects insist they legally acquired ancient 29-foot-long parchment.

That would make it comparable in length to the Temple Scroll (9 meters).

As the latter article notes, the Turkish authorities do not have an impressive recent track record for understanding such Bible-related antiquities as fall into their hands. (See here and [final story] here.) Still, I give them points for at least paying attention and investigating these things.

Caesarea development decision

Court rejects Caesarea residential neighborhood

By SHARON UDASIN (Jerusalem Post)
12/24/2012 23:20

After 7-year legal battle, Jerusalem court rejects plan to build neighborhood over site off coast of Aqueduct Beach.

Following a seven-year legal battle, the Jerusalem District Court has decided to reject a plan to build a neighborhood over a site off the coast of Aqueduct Beach, just north of the ancient city of Caesarea, the Antiquities Authority announced on Monday.

The decision, which was made on December 13, denied the appeal of the Caesarea Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild Development Corporation and thereby determined that a residential neighborhood would not be cropping up on the Aqueduct Beach.

Approval of the plan would cause “irreparable damage to ancient remains, harm the cultural heritage of the State of Israel, as well as eliminate one of the important archeological sites of the country,” the Antiquities Authority had expressed in its official position to the court.

Sounds like an important legal precedent.

I noted the case back in 2006, when it was just getting underway.

More Waqf depredations at the Temple Mount

Temple Mount authority reportedly carts off antiquities to the dump
Despite High Court ruling, mounds of earth excavated from Jerusalem holy site go unexamined by archaeologists

By Ilan Ben Zion December 24, 2012, 5:55 am 12 (Times of Israel)

The Muslim authority managing the Temple Mount on Sunday dumped tons of unexamined earth and stones excavated from the holy site into a municipal dump, in violation of a High Court injunction, Maariv reported on Monday.

Israel’s top court in September 2004 prohibited removal of earth from the Temple Mount and ruled that, should it be necessary, the Antiquities Authority must be notified a month in advance so it may examine the earth for artifacts.

Some indication of what that earth may contain:
Soil from the Temple Mount that had been removed to the Kidron Valley in recent years has yielded “tens of thousands of finds, including signet rings from the First Temple era, painted floor tiles from the Second Temple era, ancient gold coins, and horseshoe nails and arrowheads belonging to the Knights Templar, who stabled their horses in Solomon’s Stables,” [archaeologist Tzachi] Dvira said.
In recent years I have noted other details of finds sifted (see below) out of similarly pillaged Temple-Mount earth here, here, here, and here.

Arutz Sheva is also covering the story:
Report: Waqf Continues to Destroy Jewish Antiquities
The Waqf is continuing to destroy Jewish antiquities on the Temple Mount in a direct violation of a court ruling, new report finds.

By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/25/2012, 2:13 AM

The Muslim Waqf is continuing to destroy Jewish antiquities on the Temple Mount in a direct violation of a ruling by the Supreme Court, a new report released Monday finds.

The author of the report, archaeologist Tzachi Zweig-Devira, told Arutz Sheva that his report is based on a personal visit he made to the Temple Mount.

This sort of thing has been going on for years, and I can't fathom why the Israeli Government continues to abide it. Much of the illicitly excavated material has been scrutinized for artifacts by the Temple Mount Sifting Project, with which Tzachi Zewig-Dvira is associated. More on the project here and follow the many, many links back.

(HT Joseph I. Lauer and others.)

UPDATE—The story develops: MK Eldad Joins Rally for Temple Mount Preservation and Court May Be Asked to Stop ‘Destruction of History’ (Arutz Sheva).

Helen Bond on Historical Jesus studies

HELEN BOND has published an essay in Bible and Intepretation summarizing the results of her new book The Historical Jesus: A Guide for the Perplexed:
Ten Things I Learnt about Jesus by Writing a Book about him

I’ve become increasingly convinced that the search for authentic words of Jesus is a waste of time. The human memory has been studied exhaustively in recent decades, and the overriding picture which emerges is one of fragility and subjectivity. On an individual level, we tend to fill in the blanks, to make sense of what we see or hear, and to allow later information to blend into and inform what we think we remember. Over time, we may retain the gist of what happened, but not the specific details....the idea that a person or a group could remember and transmit Jesus’ sayings perfectly seems highly unlikely.
I am not a specialist in Historical Jesus studies, but her comments seem to me refreshingly sensible and undogmatic (both in the religious sense and the political-correctness sense). I have posts making similar points to her points 2 and 6 here and her point 3 here (end of post).

(Via James McGrath.)

Fourth international Colloquium on apocryphal literature

COLLOQUIUM: THE LIFE OF ADAM AND EVE AND ADAMIC TRADITIONS (7-10 janvier 2014 – January 7th-10th, 2014) (Alin Suciu).
This fourth international Colloquium on apocryphal literature is devoted to Adam and Eve in apocryphal traditions. The new edition of the Vita latina Adae et Evae just published in the Corpus Christianorum Series Apocryphorum led the AELAC to organise this meeting. It should be an opportunity to honour the memory of Jean-Pierre Pettorelli, who devoted much time and energy in the last years of his life to the completion of this outstanding edition.
Cross-filu under "Pseudepigrapha Watch."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all those celebrating!

Posts of Christmas past are collected here and links. And relevant posts from yesterday are here, here, and here.

Something for this Christmas: Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., Two Christmas stories: An analysis of New Testament narratives (OUP Blog).
My purpose here is not to criticize blending the two Christmas stories or to debate the historicity of the events they describe. What I do want to show is that by harmonizing the two stories we may be missing points that were especially important for Matthew and Luke, respectively. I want also to suggest that appreciating each biblical account separately might open up new perspectives on the infancy narratives for people today.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The wrong Bethlehem!

OOPS! Birth of Jesus celebrated in 'wrong Bethlehem' (The Telegraph).

This is an old story, being recycled for the Season. I have a discussion of it from five years ago here. I see nothing in the brief Telegraph article to indicate that Mr. Oshri has made any notable progress in proving his theory.

Some other recent Bethlehem-related stories are here (fifth paragraph) and here. And while I'm at it, past discussions of the Star of Bethlehem and the Magi are here and links.

Frankincense returns to Israel

After 1,500 years, frankincense returns to the Holy Land in time for Christmas
December 23, 2012, 3:49 pm 1

Matthew Kalman (Times of Israel blog)

KIBBUTZ KETURA, ISRAEL – Seven years after I revealed her success in sprouting a 2,000 year-old date palm seed found on Masada, botanist Dr Elaine Solowey of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies has done it again.

1,500 years after the last frankincense tree disappeared from the Holy Land, Dr Solowey has managed to grow the first shoots of a tree whose scented white sap was once worth more than gold.

At Kibbutz Ketura deep in Israel’s Negev Desert, Dr Solowey is carefully nurturing the fragile sapling in her greenhouse, where she is also growing myrrh and balm of Gilead – probably the “gold” brought by the Three Wise Men to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem.

Cool about the frankincense, but if it's all the same to you, I'm going to keep the gold in my mental picture of the story.

More on the magi here and links.

Bones of St Nick

TIMELY, IF ODD NEWS: Turkey wants St. Nick's bones back.
ISTANBUL, Turkey, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- A Turkish professor has requested that the bones of Saint Nicholas, the original Santa Claus, be returned to Turkey from the Vatican.

If Turkey wants to be taken even the least bit seriously when they start asking for the repatriation of Christian relics, they need to start taking proper care of the Christian antiquities that are already there.

Background on the body of St. Nicholas is here. The first link has rotted, but the second is still good. Cross-file (tangentially) with "Mor Gabriel Monastery."


THE ECONOMIST: Hell: A very rough guide. Somehow, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here" doesn't quite fly as a travel slogan.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ben Zvi and Levin (eds.), Remembering and Forgetting in Early Second Temple Judah

Remembering and Forgetting in Early Second Temple Judah. Ed. by Ehud Ben Zvi and Christoph Levin
2012. XIV, 360 pages. FAT 85

ISBN 978-3-16-151909-3
cloth € 99.00

Remembering and Forgetting in Early Second Temple Judah
Ed. by Ehud Ben Zvi and Christoph Levin

This volume collects revised versions of essays from a 2011 workshop held in Munich on Remembering and Forgetting in Early Second Temple Judah . The authors of the essays address these issues from both general methodological perspectives and through case studies emerging out or associated with a wide range of texts from the prophetic literature, the Pentateuch, the historical books, Psalms and Lamentations. All these texts share one main feature: they shape memories of the past (or future) and involve forgetting.

Contributors: Bob Becking, Ehud Ben Zvi, Kåre Berge, Diana Edelman, Christina Ehring, Judith Gärtner, Friedhelm Hartenstein, Michael Hundley, Jörg Jeremias, Sonya Kostamo, Francis Landy, Christoph Levin, James Linville, Zhenhua Meng, Bill Morrow, Reinhard Müller, Urmas Nõmmik, Juha Pakkala, Hermann-Josef Stipp